Gym Anxiety (An Update)

Gym anxiety is the commonly reported form of anxiety where an individual feels anxious or being judged at the gym. 

In this article we will discuss gum anxiety.

Anxiety is generally known as fear of the future. When the body naturally responds to stress it is denoted as anxiety; feeling afraid or apprehensive about future happening.

A person may feel anxious about going for a job interview, first day at a new school or going on stage and delivering a speech to a gathering are the most common causes of instigating anxiety.

If this anxiety prolongs and remains for a longer period of time, i.e., six months and it starts disturbing the life patterns then it becomes anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Anxiety:

Symptoms of anxiety differ from individual to individual. Symptoms can range from feeling butterflies in the stomach to irregular heart beat.

People can experience anxiety in the form of panic attacks, nightmares, painful thoughts and memories that the individual has no control over.

A person might feel that his mind is disconnected from his body. Common symptoms of anxiety are as follow:

  • Restlessness 
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Difficulty in falling and staying asleep 
  • Trouble in concentrating 

Gym Anxiety:

Despite the benefits of gym it has been observed that many individuals face gym anxiety.

Gym anxiety is a feeling of self-consciousness and vanishing confidence when one is faced with an embarrassing or awkward situation at the gym.

It can also be based on the feeling of fear of being judged by others on the basis of one’s body shape and weight or because of the gym equipment. 

Gym anxiety is not limited to adults.

Many children and teenagers also suffer from social anxiety at the thought of taking part in physical education class.

Causes of Gym Anxiety:

Most of the time anxiety is related to a specific situation and ward off after the situation is over but anxiety which persists and becomes dysfunctional should be looked into.

Gym anxiety usually becomes hindrance in a person’s way of going to gym regularly.

Main two causes of gym anxiety are as follow:

Fear of Being Judged:

People before going to the gym have this fear that they will not be welcomed there, because there is none of the advertisements of the gym which show people like them.

They have this thing in their mind that other people who visit the gym are more fit.

This unconscious fear leads to the enhancement of gym anxiety. 

Fear of Failure:

Men and women joining the gym have fear in their minds that they won’t be able to achieve the desired physical fitness which is shown usually at the posters.

Fear of failure adds up the gym anxiety of a person. 

Gender difference in Gym Anxiety:

It is a usual observation that there is more proportion of men in the gym than women.

A scientific study was conducted in England to understand why men are more likely to join gym than women.

Results of study indicated that women had more anxiety related to their body shape and weight than men that held them back from actively joining gym. 

Some other reasons of gym anxiety might include:

  1. Fear of being teased by other
  2. Lacking confidence in physical ability
  3. Being self-conscious about weight
  4. Embarrassment of changing in front of people
  5. Feeling under confident while being in presence of people in better shape
  6. Being unaware of use of equipments
  7. Feeling of being stared at
  8. Problem with group session
  9. Being anxious about sweating during workout
  10. Social anxiety

Gym induced Anxiety:

Exercising at gym can lead to arousal in which a person experiences difficult breathing, slight nausea, sweating, increased heart rate and higher chest.

All these symptoms of arousal are also associated with panic and anxiety thus they can be misinterpreted as symptoms of anxiety.

Exercising at the gym leads to higher secretion of cortisol in the body as exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system.

Cortisol is also known as a stress hormone thus can be a trigger for anxiety.

Although exercise is associated with lesser secretion of cortisol hormone and decreased activation of sympathetic nervous system, thus if a person can tolerate initial anxiety caused by exercise, he can better cope with long term anxiety.

Overcoming gym anxiety:

If a gym anxiety becomes dysfunctional for a person in a way that it inhibits a person to join a gym or be effective at the gym, it should be dealt with efficiently.

Different strategies and techniques are designed to overcome gym anxiety some of which are as follow:

  1. Focusing on workout:

Person dealing with gym anxiety should focus on his workout. In this way he would have time to compare himself with others around him.

In this situation a person should constantly remind himself that he is doing great to keep himself motivated.

He can also use music as a tool to distract himself from his surroundings.

  1. Talking to instructor:

Person might feel embarrassed while mimicking the instructor in different fitness classes.

Person can deal with it easily by talking to the instructor.

Instructors can give him valuable advice and help him in improving his form and be better in class ultimately reducing the gym anxiety. 

  1. Peak-off hours:

If a person is experiencing anxiety because of fear of being judged, he can ask the receptionist about the busiest hour of the gym and can decide which is the best time for him to do gym.

If a person selects peak off hours, he can avoid fitness junkies at the gym warding off the fear of being judged.

He might feel more comfortable around a lesser number of people. On the other hand, a person can also choose to be at the gym during the busiest hours.

In this way, he can observe others and learn to use different equipment and different techniques.

This can reduce a person’s social anxiety as it will give him more room to relate to others. 

  1. Fitness Mentor:

When gym anxiety starts to become dysfunctional for a person, it is usually recommended that a person should bring a friend or a mentor with whom he feels comfortable enough.

When he starts to have a spell of gym anxiety, he can share a laugh with his mentor.

In this way not only his nerves remain calm but he can enjoy gym time.

  1. Having confidence:

It is important that a person should keep in mind that he is his only competition and being in competition with others will only result in lowering down his confidence.

Easy way to do this is to remember that everyone must have started at the same point where he is starting and consistency and believe in oneself is the only thing which can lead a person up the ladder. 

  1. “Know before you go” strategy:

To lessen the gym anxiety it is preferred that a person should do a little homework before actually going to gym.

This might include a person visiting the gym vicinity or searching online what to expect at the gym.

  1. The fitness strategy:

It is preferred that a person should design a fitness plan according to their fitness needs, their weight and their version of health.

If a person join a gym and immediately starts a high intensity interval training class it will only add up to the gym anxiety.

Thus it is recommended that a person should start with light exercises such as walking or jogging, acquaint or reacquaint himself with the exercises and then move towards intense exercises. 

  1. Strategy of breathing:

Anxiety can result in increased heart rate which can result in decrease in effectiveness of performance ultimately adding up to the gym anxiety.

It is recommended that before starting the gym a person find a peaceful corner and go through some relaxation exercise including deep breathing so that symptoms of anxiety can be reduced. 

  1. Jive with your tribe:

Fear of the unknown can add up to the gym anxiety. After socializing with the people in the group a person starts to relate to them.

The sense of belongingness to the people at the gym can markedly reduce the anxiety and make a person comfortable there.

  1. Feel it and do it:

Starting the gym can induce some symptoms of anxiety at first but it is recommended that a person should do it anyway.

With time, a person becomes used to the gym and anxiety symptoms ultimately reduce.

  1. Positive mind Strategy:

Sense of self-efficacy can have a huge impact on the behavioral pattern of an individual.

To reduce the gym anxiety, sometimes a person has to follow a proverb “Fake it until you make it”.

A person can use some self-assuring statements to boost his self-efficacy and with time he would be able to overcome gym anxiety and be comfortable with it. 

Exercise for gym anxiety:

Researchers have shown that exercise is beneficial for treating the symptoms of anxiety and depression and it can be as effective as Prozac.

Exercise increases the amount of adrenaline and serotonin in the body which are proven to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.

It also decreases the resting heart rate, increases confidence and decreases the person’s sensitivity to symptoms of anxiety. Thus exercising can be effective in reducing gym anxiety too.

A person can make a schedule in a way where he can do a little warm up exercises before going to the gym which can relate his mood and help him overcome symptoms of gym anxiety. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.


Gym anxiety is the result of fear of being judged at the gym for one’s body size and weight or due to unawareness of equipment at the gym.

Women experience more gym anxiety than men. It can markedly reduce a person’s ability to perform at the gym.

A person can use different strategies to overcome gym anxiety.

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Online Therapy

  • Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

  • Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.

Light Therapy

  • Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night.  An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.

FAQ’s about Gym Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

All anxiety disorders share some general symptoms:

– Panic, fear, and uneasiness

– Sleep problems

– Not being able to stay calm and still

– Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet

– Shortness of breath

– Heart palpitations

– Dry mouth

– Nausea

– Tense muscles

– Dizziness

What is gym anxiety?

Gym anxiety is the self-conscious, confidence-vanishing feeling one experience when faced with an intimidating, embarrassing, or potentially awkward situation at the gym.

Why does the gym give me anxiety?

Arousal experienced by a person after work out can be translated into panic and anxiety very quickly.

Symptoms of anxiety and arousal after work have many similarities thus it can be wrongly interpreted as anxiety. 


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